When the situation hits reverse
When you sleep and the situation speaks in tongues
When you don’t have a seatbelt and you don’t have a car
Going backwards off a cliff is not such a bad plan.
You might start dancing and you might change hats
You might introduce yourself as somebody new
But you don’t have a car and you don’t want to steal
So you rise from the dead just to try it out.
And you’re not such a dunce – as you feel your way –
And you spin even more – and feel even more new.
I wrote this in a couple of minutes to the tune of Fates Right Hand by Rodney Crowell – sort of a country rap song from years ago. I always like personal transformation stories. Not that Fate’s Right Hand is a personal transformation story. But I guess the juxtaposition of these images signifies such a possibility.
When I was young and my mother even younger in the history of the world I stood one day looking at the rain outside the window and on the window.
And my mother did not speak to me of rain upon the sculptures at the Hoysaleshvara temple in Halebedu, Karnataka, SW India, carved in the 1200s of the common era. No. She said farmers need the rain.
And my mother did not speak to me of astronauts or ancient astronauts or vimanas sailing through rain and cloud. No. She said farmers need the rain.
And I believed her. I had no reason to not believe my mother speaking of rain.
Watching you in the shadows rip your poems into pieces, tossing them like blossoms cascading into a bucket of glowing coals.
The shadows of your hands flutter perfectly against the wall, the shadow of your fingers tearing shapes into pieces, tossed up & falling down, the sun at two o’clock highlighting shadows like birds sliding down the wall.
Nobody imagined your face streaked or the palms of your hands covered in coal dust.
One torn fragment flies through smoke and sticks to your streaked face in the shadow of a cherry tree, the bucket heavy as an anchor, the last of your words going up in smoke.
I fell in love with the maps of distant time, unexplained distant time & the Neolithic, I fell in love with the Neolithic – your dark hair,
Dark as some mystery strain of ancient wheat shimmering in the coolness of twilight, pressing your toes and fingers into the clay floor, stretching your body from horizon to horizon
Balancing a voluminous golden disc upon your delicate, curving spine. I’ve learned the language of discs and cherry blossoms, your fingers and smoke. I bury my animal cry.
Your shadows are hunger.
The eye blinks once in the gloomy shadow of the soul’s laboratory. A shattered disc showers fragments. Clay – no, not clay – gold. Hollow doors open and close, concealing this world. You seize the universal remote. Your fingertips press TV channels bright as a sun. The Clay Channel. The Gold Channel.
You gave me an indelible precision I mistook for esoteric ambiguity. Shadows conceal and reveal. I gave you tools for repairing machinery. You asked where this machinery might be found.
In the Legion parking lot snakes fall from the sky. You sing them down into the branches, how you sang! They wound themselves down, sliding and wet, their hearts tinted with gold, zigzagging into liquid angles and spitting hieroglyphics, falling upon your shoulders like rain loosening your hair.
Cauldrons along your spine bubbled over spilling gold. I was drawn as if by a magnet to your magical hysteria on the night you promised you would never shatter again.
You raved about a coastline where we might find ourselves half-buried.
You ridiculed mannerism in cinema but never did you ridicule Suprematism. In the shadow of a tower you open a drawer filled with soft gloves and the sounds of night. You pull charcoal up to your elbow. The Suprematism of your eyes lined with kohl.
A movement crosses the palm of your hand dividing stone from water. Your breath fills your spine with heat, a motionless reflection shimmers, spreading to the edge of a stone radius.
Your blood has not forgotten this stone.
I read Neolithic in full in February and it took me ten minutes to read with a fairly brisk delivery. I have edited it substantially (and spontaneously) for this posting. I hope I have conveyed the essence of the poem even knowing how much is missing…
For the cover of her book with a theme – dreams, running throughout the powerful, prophetic poems.
I selected the drawings from two sketchbooks filling simultaneously, slowly, sometimes on the subway, sometimes in a cafe.
I work in these sketchbooks, as well as accordion sketchbooks, on and off, sometimes obsessively & intricately, sometimes less so.
I love ink drawing and the history of ink drawings – the contrast of line, design. To be honest I don’t want to do ink drawings, it’s inescapable & too pleasurable. An addiction of sorts.
My early heroes were Aubrey Beardsley and later Jan Toorop.
Today I find myself mesmerized by the line of Pict or Runic art and the heavier B&W contrasts in lino & woodcuts.
I have a book from the early 1900s & the author is railing against modernity in ink drawings.
He’s right about traditional, technical skill but quite misses the point.
The quest to return to what was lost in our origins is not determined by accuracy in depiction.
But rather seeing the spirit of the thing.
Or what we imagine is the spirit of the thing.
Just before Jimi Hendrix played the Star Spangled Banner
A wave went through the crowd.
Sleeping girls with feet caked in mud stirred.
Boys asleep with long wet hair awoke.
Potheads spinning up looked down.
Potheads coming down looked up.
Country Joe and Buffalo Springfield and Melanie
saw something moving like a river & coming into view.
He spoke without using a mic.
Ask not what your country can remember for you.
Ask what you can remember for your country.
The crowd applauded and gave him a standing ovation.
‘Inauguration Day man,’ the guy next to me said.
I looked at him closely.
The pottery in the next to last image is of Cucuteni-Trypillian neolithic heritage. I thought it played off the idea of ‘pothead’ as well as being a vessel the motorcade passed through. The images superimposed over JFK in the third image are the Sri Yantra diagram and a detail from the Book of Kells representing JFK’s ancestry. JFK loved poetry and read for pleasure so these are perhaps fitting images of tactile and spiritual deep time.
I do not claim copyright on original images. I have created new, non-commercial artworks for the purpose of parody or commentary.
Around here we measure everything
words, costs, speeds–
so nobody gets hurt
be sorry et cetera.
Define and predict: the span of germs,
the time of dinosaurs,
the era of humans.
Expiry dates on foods
favour short-lived romances
over the lifetime ones.
We’re being practical.
We measure tumours.
Sizes disturb us
same as their unyieldingness.
We keep notes. Calculate and file.
Out of stubbornness
we look for equals.
The whereabouts of clouds
we know precisely. Not so sure
about our thoughts,
we get near them,
and wave –
young hands inside a steep creek.
Realm of flesh fingers that measure
the cruelty of flow.
Born in Albania, Majlinda Bashllari is the author of two poetry collections, Një udhë për në shtëpi (A road to home), published in Tirana, Albania (Morava, 2007) & Love is a very long word, published by Guernica Editions in 2016. Bashllari’s work has appeared in numerous Albanian art and literature magazines and in Albanian anthologies of essays and short stories. She lives in Toronto.
All I wanted was a can of rice pudding. After a long day I wanted a reward. Not a drink. Not dope. Just some rice pudding.
In other stores I’ve seen cans of rice pudding beside the Devon cream near the condensed milk or in the baking goods section.
I thought of her, who I lost, and how she would heat pudding and serve it topped with Devon cream. I wondered who she was serving now.
The staff had no clue. One said aisle 13 with a blank stare.
‘Isn’t it with the pudding?’ said the one with centipede eyebrows.
I was determined to find the rice pudding section.
A woman without a shopping cart or purse or umbrella studied a jar in aisle 13 and then a bag in the organic section freezer. I figured she was the store detective or an immigrant figuring things out or maybe somebody lonely looking to get picked up.
I checked every possible location. No luck.
I walked away half an hour later in the rain wondering what sort of loser looks for rice pudding at ten o’clock on a Saturday night.
I thought of Rumi saying sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.
But I didn’t have any cleverness to sell.
All I did was dump coffee in the sink
And he appeared. He must have wanted to go on a trip, a journey or a jaunt, I doubt he wanted to be washed down the drain.
Which wasn’t the plan anyway. Not when there is so much to see everywhere, day or night, here or there.
And kindred spirits to discover.
With golden suns disguised as room-temperature metal beginning the process of your transformation. No matter how you begin.